Two charter school teachers in Durham, North Carolina, write that their schools are closing on May 16 to join the protest against the Legislature’s underfunding of public schools.

Taylor Schmidt and Morgan Carney, teachers at Central Park Charter School, reflect on their school’s advantages and point out:

“As the 10th largest economy in the nation, North Carolina is currently ranked 39th for per-pupil spending. Public school teachers often reach into their own pocketbooks to buy essentials like pencils and copy paper for overcrowded classrooms, nevermind having the financial support to take 95 sixth graders on a bus to a local farm for project work.

“Adding to these challenges is the broken system of creating and managing charter schools in our state, a system that includes our own school. Soon after we arrived at Central Park, structural shortcomings became apparent. Students of color comprised 81 percent of the demographics of Durham Public Schools in 2013, while students of color at Central Park comprised only 29 percent of the student population. Whereas 66 percent of students in Durham Public Schools were eligible for free and reduced lunch, only 7 percent of CPSC students were eligible for the program.

“This realization led to greater clarity: regardless of our intentions, we had become part of the problem of school resegregation. We petitioned the state to become the first charter school to give weighted lottery preference to economically disadvantaged families. We have changed our policies to provide free and reduced-price lunches and transportation assistance. While there is more work to be done, each year the socioeconomic diversity of our student body better reflects the strengths found in the rich diversity of our community and delivers on the mandate for NC charter schools to provide increased learning opportunities for those most in need.

“In 2018, Central Park is arriving at another moment of clarity. We recognize that, despite positive intentions, we are still part of the problem. As a charter school, we play into a system that has strayed from the original goals. The charter school system has been turned into a Trojan horse that severely underfunds our state’s public schools, creates competition for resources, resegregates our schools, and provides blinders to cover the increasing privatization of North Carolina’s educational institutions through for-profit charter schools. The mission of our school, and the original mission of charter schools, forbid us from staying silent on these issues.

“We intend to actively fight against resegregation of schools by race and class in North Carolina. We stand against privatization, vouchers, and for-profit charter schools, believing passionately that we must serve in collaboration and partnership alongside our communities’ public schools.”

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